Saturday, February 28, 2015

O come and see, come and hear how we honor the Beloved.

Many there are who desire Life, who yearn for fulfillment,

who covet the wisdom of Truth.

Keep your heart open and free, take time to dwell in the Silence,

become a peaceful presence in the world.

For the Beloved sees the deeds of our hearts, and hears our innermost thoughts.

The face of the Beloved turns from the evil ways of men and women;

For Love is kind and merciful and remembers not our sins.

Rather, the Beloved is patient, ever-waiting for us to cry our for forgiveness,

to embrace Love’s way.

How often the Beloved weeps with compassion over those who are crushed in spirit.

Though we are beset with many fears that cause illness and troubles,

The Beloved is ever ready to comfort us in our sorrows,

to strengthen us on our soul’s journey to wholeness.

The Beloved renews the life of all

who surrender to Love.

Psalm 34 

When the community of Spirit of Hope began, they agreed on the tenant that they would only respond in Love. No matter what was being flung their way, publicly or personally, Love would be the response. Sometimes that is the most difficult way to respond.  We want to defend ourselves, prove we’re right.  We react to someone hurting us, but responding in hurtful way. Truth must be spoken, but when done in Love, it will be more powerful than any army or storm.  Love wins.  It really does.  The challenge for us humans is to ground ourselves so deeply in Love, that it is the first and most natural response we have.

My friends, today let’s surrender to Love. Let’s keep our heart open and free, dwell in the silence, and become a peaceful presence in the world. How our world needs more Love and more peaceful presences!  We can be assured that our Beloved God will renew the lives of all who surrender to Love. Amen!

Rev. Joan

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Friday, February 27, 2015

But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you.
Matthew 5:44

Immaculee Ilibagiza is a woman who survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide.  She, along with seven other women, hid in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s home.  For 91 days, they sat in silence.  Rather than allowing anger and resentment to destroy her and her faith, Immaculee turned to prayer. In that cramped room, she prayed upon her awakening in the morning and until she slept at night.  It was through prayer that she received peace and the ability to survive her situation.  It was through prayer that she understood the imperative Jesus gave to love her enemies and pray for those who persecuted her; for that’s what she did, she prayed for her tormentors and for those who murdered her family.  So powerful was this practice and so profound the grace that God poured upon her, she was actually able to sit across from the man who murdered her mother and brother and say the words “I forgive you.”

Most of us will never need to deal with such horror.  Each and every one of us, however, will deal with people who hurt us in some way.  It does not matter the degree to which we are harmed, we are still commanded by Jesus to love and pray.  The person who cuts us off at the freeway, the coworker who spreads false gossip that leads to our reprimand, the church leader that oppresses us because of their own fears, the person that steals our innocence through abuse…. all these people we are instructed to love.  This is not an easy task – that’s where prayer comes in to play.

It is through prayer, that we will be given the grace to forgive and love.  When we carry anger and resentment instead of love, we become weighed down.  We become so burdened that we are unable to move forward on our spiritual journey.  These burdens begin to affect all of our relationships and even our physical selves.  God wants us to be free from these burdens.  Through communion with God, we will discover the way to let go and love.  It may come as an epiphany, it may come through another person, but we will always receive the power to forgive.  It may not come quickly, it may take weeks, but if we are persistent in our prayer, we will receive the grace needed.  William Young in his book The Shack states it this way:  “You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely.  And then one day you will pray for his wholeness.”

Perhaps today, we can turn to God in prayer and seek the courage and grace needed to let the resentments go and forgive those who have hurt us.  Then, let’s move forward unburdened and open to even more grace and love!

Rev. Joan

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7

“So, God, I’ve got this plan.  I’m gonna buy a lottery ticket. You can make sure I win and it will be great for everyone! I could support my family and spend more time them. I could give a lot of money to charity…maybe even start one of my own. Doing good works and not having to ask others for money could give me some clout in the community and I would use it to bring some positive changes around town.  Isn’t this a great plan?  I knew you’d like it, so I’ll just by the ticket. Thanks, God.”

It’s human nature to make our own plans and then ask God to bless them. However, that’s not what Jesus had in mind when he told us to ask, seek, and knock.  Before he gave us the promise in today’s passage, Jesus first taught us how to pray – with the Lord’s Prayer.  We can’t forget the part “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

Prayer is an integral part of our spiritual journey. By communicating with God, we allow God to guide us and lead us in the right direction.  But prayer isn’t a vending machine where we put our request in and receive it instantaneously.  Prayer is a relationship with God.  God wants us to ask the questions, ask for what we think we need, seek to find answers and new ways of discerning, and to actively knock when we come to a closed door.  God want us to listen and learn and grow in our relationship so that we can more easily find that plan that God has for us.  It is then that we will find that God is giving us exactly what we need at that moment in time….whether we think we need it or not.  When we ask, seek and knock with the desire to receive and do God’s will, we find a freedom from our own “plans” and are able to live with a peace that surpasses all understanding.

How about today we focus on strengthening our relationship with God through prayer. Maybe we will find it easier to discern God’s plans and set aside our own. In my own experience, I find God’s plans turn out much better than mine!

Rev. Joan

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Even now says God, return to me with your whole heart for I am gracious and merciful.

Joel 2:12-13

Shame. Guilt. I should have. I’m not enough. That’s unforgiveable. God’s done with me. STOP. Today’s scripture is saying just that STOP.

Even now says God. Not tomorrow, not when we think we’ve got a handle on our issues, not when we’ve lost all hope, but now. Now, this day, God invites us into loving arms. We won’t be coming into judgment and wrath, we will be coming home to grace, mercy, and love.

Sometimes I think the spiritual life is often about unlearning. Unlearning the messages that the world gives us about God. Many of us, or maybe even a majority of us, have grown up with a punitive understanding of God – the old guy sitting up in heaven with a book marking down all of our sins. A deity that will strike us down, give us some disease, or take away the things or people we love because we’ve made some bad choices, done some bad things. I wish I new how and why these lessons have repeated themselves throughout human history because I’d like to eradicate them forevermore. It takes a lot of energy to unlearn things, and I’d rather see our energy spent on compassion, caring, loving, and serving. I believe God would too.

God is gracious and merciful, inviting us home to live in love – today. We’re not expected to be perfect. We’re not expected to have all of our ducks in a row first. We’re invited to return, as we are right now, into God’s heart and into God’s care. My friends, let’s stop today, and return home.  I believe this truly is the place where we will find the freedom to live into our purpose…being the presence of Love to all we meet.

Rev. Joan

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Your God knows what you need before you ask.  

Matthew 6:8

Watching the beginning of Johnny Carson was a treat during my childhood. Mostly in the summer months when my mom prayed we’d sleep later in the morning, but a treat nonetheless! One of my favorite skits was Carnac the Magnificent. Remember him?  He used to share his ability to announce the answer to a question placed in a sealed envelope before seeing it.  Quite entertaining…and so human.

Let’s face it.  We humans often expect one another to know the answers before we even ask the questions.  We hope and often assume that what is going on in our own mind is easily accessible to those we love.  Therefore, we shouldn’t have to explain what we’re thinking or feeling, our loved ones should be able to figure that out on their own.   Unfortunately, when we live with those expectations in our human relationships, the results are not usually comical.  But we can live with these expectations in our relationship with God.

God knows our heart.  God knows our minds.  God is with us at every step of our journey whether we choose to acknowledge that presence or not.  God knows what we need before we do.

The beauty of this reality is that when we walk and talk with God through prayer, we don’t need to have beautiful words, organized thoughts, or proper etiquette.  We can come before God as we are at the moment.  We may be ecstatic with joy, burdened by pain, impatient with anticipation, frozen in grief, or simply unaware of what we need, when we come to God in prayer.  That’s all ok.  God is only seeking the relationship with us that comes through prayer; an intimate relationship that helps us to become all that we were created to be, and spreads Love to all creation.

I wonder if we gave ourselves permission to simply trust that God knows what we need and rest in Love, how we may be changed and consequently change the world?

Rev. Joan

Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy
Leviticus 19:2

Let’s imagine. Imagine what life would be like if we saw ourselves as “holy people who have sinned” instead of “sinners who are trying to become holy”. Imagine how the world would be different if we treated one another and all of God’s creation as holy. Just imagine.

We have been created in the image of God. God is holy and consequently, we too, are holy. Yes, indeed, we are human and through our power to choose, we act in ways that do not honor our holiness or the holiness of others. But our choices in behavior do not change our innate being. Meister Eckhart tells us that “People should not worry as much about what they do but rather about what they are. If they and their ways are good, then their deeds are radiant. If you are righteous, then what you do will also be righteous. We should not think that holiness is based on what we do but rather on what we are, for it is not our works which sanctify us but we who sanctify our works.” The challenge in our spiritual journey is to learn to live into the holiness that God has gifted to us.

Jesus is the divine gift that will help us on this journey. His life is an example of how we can live into our holiness, how we can match our thoughts and actions with whom we are. He shows us how to love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbors. His story shows the struggles of being human and the gift of being one with God.

So for today, let’s hold tight to the knowledge that we are holy. Let’s strive today to see this truth, grasp it, believe it, and show it to the world. Then we won’t have to image the change in the world, we will see it.

Rev. Joan

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Your ways, O God, make known to me; teach me your paths.

Psalm 25:4

Mazes have been a source of entertainment for generations.  Made in gardens or cornfields, these intricate and interconnected pathways can provide hours of entertainment, while at the same time invoking doubt and confusion. We can get lost; feel like we will never find the end, and then rejoice when we reach our goal.

God’s ways can sometimes feel like a maze.  We don’t always see a clear path.  Choices abound and our own ego clouds our judgment.  When we look forward, we see what appears to be a wall stopping our progression.  But when we arrive at the wall, we see that it is actually part of a new path leading us toward the goal.  Being open to learning and trusting in a new way, in God’s way, is the goal of a spiritual life.  But we first need to realize that our ways and God’s ways are not always the same.  We need to become teachable.  Just as the psalmist acknowledges his ignorance and asks to be taught, so too can we.  We can join one another on life’s journey, walk together through our failures and our success, and then rejoice with one another as we discover a new way of being, or a new way of showing God’s love to the world.

Maybe today we can ask God to open our hearts and our minds so that we may become teachable.  Maybe we can welcome the education of God’s ways and paths for our lives trusting that God’s abundant love and grace for each and everyone of us will sustain us through unknown. Maybe today we can look at the walls in our path not as blocks, but as beginnings.

Rev. Joan